Where Are They Now: New York’s Prestigious Bartending Alumni

Published on March 24, 2019

They have shaken and stirred your martinis, poured your Bellini’s and blended your frosés, but do you know who they are?

We do. They are New York’s esteemed bartenders who worked at your favorite bars and hotels and since started their own respective projects.

We shine the light on four bartending alumni and what they’re up to now.

Jim Kearns
Jim Kearns at Slowly Shirley

Jim Kearns holds an extensive background in New York’s cocktail scene. He worked at iconic locations such as the Pegu Club, Death and Co., Mayahuel and more. Today, Kearns leads the beverage programs at all Golden Age Hospitality venues, including The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley, ACME and Tijuana Picnic. He is responsible for developing and executing the beverage programs at the highest level and ensuring top-flight service to create a memorable experience.

Prior to his pours at The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley, Kearns headed up the beverage program at Play, at The Museum of Sex, and previously worked alongside Leo Robitschek at The NoMad Hotel. Over the course of his career, he tended bar at renowned cocktail bars: the Pegu Club, where Audrey Saunders trained him to marry high-volume bartending and the execution of craft cocktails.

He helped open iconic bars including the Standard Grill at The Standard Hotel, where he met Jon Neidich, his future partner at The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley.  He also worked with Double Seven, where he met and trained under Sasha Petraske, who sparked his passion for executing classic cocktails in a precise and consistent manner.

His other stints at top cocktail establishments include Freemans on the Lower East Side, Gold Bar, Dumont in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Prime Meats in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

David Fisher
Peppi's Cellar
The Peppi’s Amaro- Palooza

David Fisher is the Beverage Director at Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar, the subterranean cocktail bar. Before this, he created the opening cocktail menu at Peachy’s, the downstairs cocktail bar of Chinese Tuxedo in New York, and was part of the team at Milk & Honey in London when it was first voted the best bar in the world by World’s 50’s Best, in addition to working to some of the best bars in Australia.

Speaking of down under, Peppi’s Cellar comes to New York courtesy of a group of Australian restaurant-industry veterans, led by Jason Scott, co-founder of the Swillhouse Group and creator of famed Sydney haunts Baxter Inn and Shady Pines.  Peppi’s Cellar accessed via a rugged, winding staircase which takes you through Gran Tivoli’s working wine cellar. The large subterranean space evokes a classic Italian bar, via Rome or old New York, from the 1940s or ‘50s.

There are over 700 bottles tucked underneath the brick arches that line the back bar, and although every category is represented, the focus at Peppi’s Cellar is heavily on the brown. There are 350 whiskeys and 40 brandies to choose from, all on display and organized by region and distillery.

Will Wyatt
Mister Paradise Shooters

Will Wyatt found an interest in the hospitality industry while finishing his degree in music at New York University in 2011. Working through several roles at Jean-George’s ABC Kitchen, he took an interest in the world of drinks. At the Experimental Cocktail Club’s New York, he started as barback but quickly worked his way into a bartending role.

After two years of building a strong base of knowledge, Wyatt moved on from ECC and opened The Roof at Park South, and at the close of the season spent the remainder of the year behind the bar at Goldbar. The following spring he continued on to assist his mentor Nico De Soto in opening his celebrated East Village cocktail destination, Mace.

Following the opening of Mace, Wyatt moved west to San Francisco to undergo management training at Saison. He returned to New York and works behind the bar at The NoMad Hotel under the mentorship of Leo Roebitchek where he became a key member of their bar team and worked to mentor and educate up-and-coming bartenders.

He left The Nomad in the Fall of 2017 to begin construction on his new project, Mister Paradise, which opened on February 19th, 2019.

Claire Sprouse
Claire Sprouse

Claire Sprouse originally hails from Houston, Texas, where she helped establish the city’s cocktail scene before relocating to San Francisco in 2012. She spent her time driving beverage programs and fundraising through industry events for non-profits and working behind bars like Rickhouse, Comstock Saloon, ABV, Sunday in Brooklyn The Treasury, and The Hideout at Dalva.

Claire is taking on a new role as Managing Partner and Owner at newly launched bar space, Hunky Dory in Brooklyn. Hunky Dory is an all-day space offering coffee, tea, non-alcoholic options, beer, wine and wine that emphasizes a minimal carbon footprint.

The kitchen, led by Chef Kirstyn Brewer, will focus on seasonal vegetable-driven small plates that compliment the beverage program, sharing the same sustainable ethos.

Natasha Bazika is a Columnist at Grit Daily. She specializes in all things lifestyle, including international travel, and calls New York her second home; her first was Australia. After graduating with a Journalism degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Natasha embarked on her writing journey and continues to create smart and compelling content for the media outlets she contributes to.

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